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Union Busting in Wisconsin
Despite very extensive coverage of the contest between public employee unions and the State government in Wisconsin, one feature has not been noted. Gov. Walker’s proposed legislation would restrict certain privileges uniquely granted to labor unions, which have the power to limit a citizen’s employment based on membership in the Union. No other class of organization is granted such extensive economic powers over individuals. The US Supreme court in 1988 [Communication Workers vs. Beck] recognized that such extensive powers may be abused, and mandated a degree of transparency and personal liberty to persons otherwise compelled to pay dues under Union Shop rules. The Supreme Court insisted that while dues to fund the bargaining and representation function of a union could be compelled from an unwilling employee, the lobbying and political advocacy portion of the dues could not be. The court established that unions must disclose publicly periodically what fraction of dues was devoted to different kinds of activity. Because of union hostility, most States, including Wisconsin, have never acted to enforce the Beck mandates. In some measure Gov. Walker’s proposed legislation establishes for Wisconsin workers their Beck rights. It would be helpful if the media generally recognized the relationship of several sections of the Wisconsin law to Beck workers rights, and that some of the hostility stems from a reluctance by many unions to conform to Beck standards of disclosure and openness.
Bruce P. Shields
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